As A Proud Jersey Stoner, Legalization Day Fulfills A Lifelong Dream

It’s difficult to think more than 4 years haveactually passed because I composed an post for Leafly entitled If New Jersey Legalizes Weed Do I Have to Move Back Home?

At the time, Phil Murphy was poised to win his veryfirst term as guv, and his stump speech consistedof a pledge to indication legalization into law in the veryfirst 100 days of his administration.

Famously, that didn’t occur. But not for a absence of attempting.

1,022 days into Murphy’s governorship, he put the problem priorto the state’s citizens, who authorized legalization 67-33%. Then it took another 112 days to get the law on the books.

That was more than a year back.

But now—at long last—New Jersey’s initially legal leisure marijuana sales will occur on Thursday earlymorning. And I’ll be there for it.

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A long-lasting worry of getting busted

I’ve been composing about marijuana for twenty years. I was lucky sufficient to be in Colorado in 2014 for America’s initially ever state-regulated adult usage sale. I was 8th in line, and composed an post called “I Just Bought Legal Weed” that completely recorded one of the highlights of my profession as a reporter—and genuinely, my time on world Earth.

photo-of-author-david-bienenstock-in-colorado-cannabis-store
Author David Bienenstock (above) was there on Jan. 1, 2014, when Colorado’s initially legal adult-use marijuana shops opened. More than 8 years lateron, he’ll be there to see his house state of New Jersey go totally legal too. (Photo courtesy of David Bienenstock)

16 states have legislated consideringthat then, however absolutelynothing strikes you like house.

As a young individual coming of age in the Garden State, cigarettesmoking weed assisted ease my stressandanxiety while concurrently offering me a entire brand-new kind of stressandanxiety: the worry of getting busted. From the really initially time I ever got high (behind a bowling street on Route 22), every single experience of purchasing or even simply having weed in New Jersey consistedof a tint of worry.

Or evenworse.

Witness to the damage of the War on Drugs

My last recognized address in New Jersey was robbed by the cops over an quantity of marijuana that is now legal to bring on your individual anywhere in the state. An quantity that any adult can, beginning today, purchase at a shop in that exactsame state.

I was not house when the raid tookplace and wasn’t consequently charged with any criminalactivities. (I was jailed in New York City assoonas for cigarettesmoking a joint on the street, something that is likewise now completely legal).

In this picture from 2019, a guy takespleasurein cannabis at a Spleef NYC canna-cocktail celebration in New York. Doing this on the street years ago got the author detained. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

At the time of the cops raid, I’d been working as a marijuana pressreporter for about a years. I’d composed many shortarticles about individuals who had their lives torn apart for growing, smuggling, selling or merely having a reasonably safe, extremely medical plant. Then I saw it takeplace in my own house, in my own house state.

That state—not coincidentally—is likewise house to some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical business. Including one that sponsored my veryfirst Little League group.

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Lives hindered over an ounce of weed

In the after-effects of the cops raid, individuals I enjoyed then and love now dealtwith far higher legal effects over an ounce of illegal weed than every single Big Pharma executive in New Jersey who was straight or indirectly included in a multi-billion-dollar conspiracy to get individuals connected on addicting, fatal opioids.

Large fines, authorities seizure of money and individual ownerships, dangers of years in jail, legal expenses, court sees, probation, stigmatization, sleepless nights and the mental damage of havingactually equipped representatives of the state covertly surveil you and put you in handcuffs while threatening fatal force for failure to comply—that all leaves deep psychological and monetary scars.

Millions of my fellow New Jerseyans suffered the exactsame fate. Some stay lockedup to this day for marijuana criminalactivities.

Which pleads the concern: How do you ask a individual to be the last individual to sit in jail for a error?

Who will be the last individual to sit in jail for the acrossthecountry error of restriction? (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Cops racking up arrests upuntil the bitter end

According to a 2017 ACLU report, New Jersey authorities kept their foot on the cannabis arrest accelerator quite much till the minute legalization endedupbeing law. The report discovered: “New Jersey is making more arrests for cannabis belongings than ever in a way that is more racially diverse than ever.

The report approximated cops companies invested about $143 million eachyear on cannabis enforcement in NJ, not consistingof lost tax profits and other social expenses. Around 90% of arrests targeted customers rather than dealerships. In New Jersey, Black individuals were at least 3 times more mostlikely to get busted for marijuana belongings than white individuals, regardlessof comparable use rates.

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Leaving to live easily and without worry

I didn’t precisely leave New Jersey since of marijuana restriction, however if weed hadactually been legal back then I may have remained. I’m a third-generation resident, and most of my household still lives there. I love consuming a Taylor Ham-egg-and-cheese sandwich down the coast as much as anyperson.

I had hoped to be on hand for the veryfirst day of legal sales, however the state’s ever-changing timeline for when that would occur made the preparation unwise. Also, I’ve got to confess, 8 years after Colorado shops opened, and more than a years consideringthat I got my veryfirst medical marijuana card in California, there’s a bit of anticlimax setting in. Prohibition, after all, was the aberration—not legalization.

After the veryfirst couple of times, purchasing weed in a shop rapidly feels, well, to obtain a expression from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws—pretty typical. Other than the stickerlabel shock of paying tax on it.

So rather of flying clear throughout the nation on a minute’s notification, permit me to deal a bit of shopping guidance for my numerous 420-friendly buddies in the Garden State. For beginners, puton’t let your late arrival to the celebration decrease the historical nature of the event. Also, shot to source from dispensaries and brandnames that represent the tradition market, the equity market, and regional ownership.

Corporate weed is like business pizza.

Now inform me, where would you rather get a slice—Domino’s or Santillo’s (since 1918)? And how numerous Papa John’s franchises do you believe made this distinguished list?

The undetectable development of arrests not made

Decriminalizing marijuana is an extremely impactful social modification that’s likewise hard to put your finger on. Nobody believes to themselves, “Wow, I would haveactually gotten apprehended for weed today otherthan we altered the law.” And yet, as justrecently as 2017, New Jersey cops still jailed 98 individuals every day on weed charges.

The end of marijuana arrests is a big win for social and racial justice, however purchasing marijuana in a shop is what the public associates with legalization. That’s exactly because you can see it occurring.

When I was in Denver for the veryfirst day of legal sales, lots of news trucks lined the street exterior the dispensary, beaming video all over the world. Seeing that, I turned to my shopping buddy and took a line from Apocalypse Now:

            Someday, this war is gonna end.

I understood that a century of full-scale federalgovernment and media propaganda—employed by males like Harry J. Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst to prop up their racist and overbearing War on Marijuana—would melt away when dealtwith with news video of individuals peaceably lining up to buy the Devil’s Lettuce, right out in the open, and then going gladly on with their lives.

In too lotsof locations in America and around the world, we continue to face arrest and jailtime for doing the exactsame specific thing. And so, the battle goes on. But as New Jersey reveals us today, the momentum is definitely on our side.

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Cannabis can’t remedy this, however…

Writing about marijuana for as long as I have, and speaking about it frequently as I have at occasions and on my podcast, one tends to develop a coupleof stock expressions. Perhaps my preferred:

            Cannabis is not the treatment for being an asshole, however it’s a excellent location to start.

I’m constantly sure to make it clear that I’m referring to myself mostly. As a young individual, I had a significant chip on my shoulder. I felt like New Jersey was irredeemably complete of assholes, without ever recognizing I was an asshole too.

Here’s how I put it in my book How to Smoke Pot (Properly):

             I veryfirst attempted marijuana as an mad young guy who saw a lot of oppression in the world, and not much hope for repairing it…

In the end, weed not just assisted me discover to stop fretting and love New Jersey (and even to endedupbeing less of an asshole). Weed likewise showed me incorrect. Because this week the reeking oppression of marijuana restriction in my house state lastly comes to an end.

David Bienenstock's Bio Image

David Bienenstock

Veteran marijuana reporter David Bienenstock is the author of “How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High” (2016 – Penguin/Random House), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast “Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean.” Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.

View David Bienenstock’s posts

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